Leading brand IIT

Print edition : September 21, 2007

Students at the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur. A recent survey lists IIT Kharagpur as the top technology and engineering college in the country.-ARUNANGSU ROY CHOWDHURY

IIT Kharagpurs specific programmes and pioneering research have contributed significantly to industrial development.

Students at the

THE Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur, set up in 1951, is the torchbearer of the IIT system. It is not only the oldest of the IITs but also the largest in terms of campus area and students enrolled and the most diversified in terms of research and departments.

Right from its inception, the institute has been continually pursuing excellence in academics and research, while expanding in size, infrastructure and other facilities and in academic disciplines covered. The very first session of IIT Kharagpur, in August 1951, had just 42 teachers and 224 undergraduate students in three departments. Today, 57 years later, it has 19 departments, eight multidisciplinary centres and schools and 13 schools of excellence besides laboratories and central research facilities. It employs 1,600 employees, including 460 faculty members, and has 7,000 students on a sprawling, green campus of over 2,100 acres. The curriculum ranges from various fields of engineering to business management, and even law. A recent survey conducted by technology magazine DataQuest and International Data Corporation, a United States-headquartered research firm, lists IIT Kharagpur as the top technology and engineering college in the country.

The departments of civil engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, electronics and electrical communication engineering, chemistry, mathematics, physics and meteorology are some of the oldest in the institute.

Major departments in geology and geophysics, agricultural and food engineering, ocean engineering and naval architecture, and mining are unique to the IIT system. The long list of firsts includes setting up the first undergraduate programmes in industrial engineering, computer science and engineering, biotechnology, energy engineering and instrumentation engineering.

IIT Kharagpur has special academic units. Among them are those in medical science and technology, cryogenics, and rubber technology. IIT Kharagpur was the first among the IITs to start a management school, in 1993, with the aid of Vinod Gupta, an alumnus.

The establishment of a law school with special emphasis on intellectual property rights and corporate law is another feather in the cap for IIT Kharagpur because these areas have not been emphasised so far in the legal education curriculum in the country.

A large number of advanced laboratories are shining examples of IIT Kharagpurs contribution to excellence. These include laboratories in advanced VLSI (very-large-scale integration) design laboratory, plant genetic engineering and communication empowerment.

The institute set up the first organised sponsored research and industrial consultancy and the first science and technology entrepreneurship park in the IITs. IIT Kharagpurs name is inextricably linked with industrial development in India. From its earliest days, two definite overlapping themes guided IIT Kharagpurs quest for research cutting edge and India centric. This is highlighted by the fact that in the mid-1950s, one of the earliest Ph.Ds from this institute was in polymer sciences, a fledgling discipline then but of great importance today.

On a different note, the institute provided the technology to modernise rice mills, and more than one lakh rice mills in the country benefited from the technology that was provided free. IIT Kharagpur has unique expertise in advanced chip design and CAD (computer-aided design) for VLSI and MEMS (microelectromechanical systems). The institute is considered among the best in the world in this area of CAD for VLSI, where it works hand in hand with a large international organisation.

The MEMS group has made significant contributions to the national research programmes of the Indian Space Research Organisation and the Defence Research and Development Organisation by developing advanced accelerometers, gyros, micro valves, and so on. Micro biofluidics and bio-nano-MEMS have become thrust areas of the institute with significant development of new techniques for DNA hybridisation.

This institute has produced the first indigenous insect-resistant Bt cotton. Prominent among its contributions to medical research is the RISUG (Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance), a unique male contraceptive, which is undergoing the third phase of trials.

Research in nano materials, smart composites, polymers (especially rubber technology) and metallurgy includes work in microstructures prepared from gelcast ceramics, nano composites, nano wires, semiconductors and metal alloys.

Prototype vehicle development is another thrust area. Progress in this area includes development of a large autonomous underwater vehicle, a fault-tolerant micro aero vehicle, a hovercraft and electric vehicles.

Research in earth and environmental sciences has been another major focus. The institute has developed a variety of wasteland development technologies. Of special mention is a technology that uses waste such as sewage sludge and fly ash to convert wasteland into plantations. This has been demonstrated on more than 400 hectares (988 acres) of land.

Industrial pollution control, especially air pollution, and water management, purification and arsenic abatement techniques have been developed and deployed on the field.

The areas of software development, planning, management, enterprise resource planning (ERP) and the like are core capabilities of the institute. The entire gamut of its software technologies includes power management software (used by the Power Grid Corporation), telemedicine software (currently used in several remote sites in several States), communication empowerment software for the physically challenged, software for medical measurements and tools for security and biometric authentication.

Other important software developed by the institute includes a specialised bond-graph-based technology, used in a variety of areas for analysis of dynamics by companies both within and outside the country; a biomechanics simulator, now deployed in industry, and a fluid mechanics- and ocean dynamics-based software for storm surge measurements, used in several countries. ERP software for the energy sector has been developed and deployed in several organisations.

The institute is now gearing up for the next big leap and is planning to set up three technology parks in the areas of biotechnology, energy and advanced information technology and major national research centres in tea engineering, steel technology, telecom, microprobe analysis and nanotechnology.

It is for its leadership role in wholesome engineering education and research that this institute is considered the mother of IITs and the cradle of the IIT system. It continues to bring in new ideas, thoughts and improvements to the IIT system, making it one of Indias finest ambassadors.

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